Listening and memory training in translation
Memory, Teaching and his types. Why we need teaching of memory. Short-term and protracted memory: oppositions and coincidences. Short-term memory and methods of his improvement. Listening of methods is in translation. Scholars of research of listening.
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MINISTRY OF HIGHER AND SECONDARY SPECIAL EDUCATION OF THE REPUBLIC OF UZBEKISTAN
GULISTAN STATE UNIVERSITY
The English and Literature department
Nurakova Malika's qualification work on speciality 5220100, English philology on theme:
The Theme: Listening and memory training in translation
Supervisor: Rashidov A.
1.1. Compositional structure of the work
2.1. Purposes of the qualification work
II. The Main Part
1.2. Chapter 1 Memory Training and its types
1.1.2. Why we need memory training
2.1.2 Short-term and long-term memory: opposites and coincidences
3.1.2 The short-term memory and methods of its improving
Chapter 2. Listening techniques in translation.
1.2.2 Some recommendations
3.2.2. Scholars investigations of the phenomenon of listening
Chapter 3 Russian influence onto development of translation.
1.3.2. Introductory remarks
2.3.2. Listening and memory training at schools
1.3. Some words about the thematic content of the work
2.3. Concluding the results and the ways of applying the work
1.1. The theme of my qualification work sounds as following: “Listening and memory training in translation” Our qualification work can be characterized by the following:
The actuality of this work caused by several important points. We seem to say that the capacity of translation is one of the main skills that a learner of English can possess so this work will deal with the traditional problems of students caused by difficulties in interpreting and translation. In other words, our qualification work pursues as its major aim to help foreign students avoid the problems connected with the art of translation and interpreting from English into the mother tongue and vice-versa. So the significance of our work can be proved by the following reasons:
a) The art of translation is one of the most difficult problems for the learners of English.
b) The problem of bad memory and inattentive listening is not a specific problem of the learners of English, but for the majority of people. That is why we tried to find optional methods of improving these skills.
c)The proposals mentioned in this work were approved by a number of worldwide famous Universities of the USA and Great Britain.
d) A number of modern methods and literary sources from Internet were used in our qualification work.
Having based upon the actuality of the theme we are able to formulate the general goals of our qualification work.
a) To study, analyze, and sum up the modern methods of training of memory.
b) To analyze the major results achieved in the studied field.
c) To prove the idea of importance of memory and listening training.
d) To help students avoid the problems caused by written and simultaneous translation.
If we say about the new information used within our work we may note that the work studies the problem from the modern positions and analyzes the modern trends appeared in this subject for the last ten years. Mainly, the newality is concluded in a wide collecting of internet materials dealing with the listening and memory training.
The practical significance of the work can be concluded in the following items:
a) The work could serve as a good source of materials for additional reading by students at schools, colleges and lyceums.
b) The problem of listening and memory training could be a little bit easier to understand, since our qualification work includes the chapter concerning the question mentioned.
c) Those who would like to possess a perfect knowledge of English will find our work useful and practical.
d) Our qualification work is a general review of the investigations made earlier.
Having said about the scholars who dealt with the same theme earlier we may notion Anderson, J.R, Gile D, Zhong W, etc.
If we say about the methods of scientific approaches used in our work we can mention the method of general analysis was used.
The newality of the work concludes in including the modern interpretations of the play.
The general structure of our qualification work looks as follows:
The work is composed onto four major parts: introduction, main part, conclusion, and bibliography. Each part has its subdivision onto the specific thematic items. There are two points in the introductory part: the first item tells about the general characteristics of the work, while the second paragraph gives us some words about the aims of the work and the general description of the latter. The main part of our qualification work consists of three chapters, which, in their World book Enciclopedia Macmillian Publisher 1996 p143turn, are subdivided into several thematic paragraphs. The first chapter of the main part discusses the memory training as the aspect of learning foreign languages. Here we gave the general description of the memory and analyzed the two types of memory: long and short. We also studied the modern methods used for improving of the short memory. The second chapter thoroughly takes into consideration the peculiar features of listening techniques and gives a comparatively large number of practical recommendations for improving listening skills. We also mentioned the scholar's opinions concerning the investigating subject. The third chapter is meant by itself as a compilation to the previous twos and studies the question of the Russian influence onto the enlarging of the English language and the questions of translation caused with it. We also mentioned here the question connected with the problem of teaching translation skills at schools. In conclusion to our work we notioned some meaningful words concerning the thematic content of the work (the first item) and the concluding results of our investigation (the second item) At the very end of our qualification work we supplied our work with the bibliography list and the internet materials.
If we say about the practical wais of applying our qualification work we would like to say that our qualification work can be applied and used by the following:
1) The work can be useful for all the teachers of foreign languages when they teach their students to translate the written sources of information or when the letters are taught to speak and transmit the information in foreign languages.
2) All the students of foreign languages department would be able to use the work for better knowledge of English or when they have practical classes on foreign language.
3) Translators and interpreters might find a lot of useful information for the improvement of their professional activity.
4) The qualification work will be useful for everyone who wants to make perfect in learning foreign languages.
2.1. This paper discusses the role of memory training and listening in interpreting. According Gile's Effort Model (a Processing Capacity Account), short-term memory is an essential part in the process of interpreting. This paper analyzes the major characteristics of Short-term Memory (STM) and their implications for interpreters' memory training. We believe that interpreting is an STM-centered activity, which includes encoding of information from the Source Language, storing of information, retrieval of information, and decoding of information into the target language. The training of STM skills is the first step in training a professional interpreter. Tactics for memory training for interpreters like retelling, categorization, generalization, comparison, shadowing exercises, mnemonics, etc. are presented in this paper. The key words for our investigation can be the following: Interpreter Training, Memory Training, Short-Term Memory, Effort Model, Listening techniques.
The Main part
1.2. Interpreting is defined as "oral translation of a written text" (Shuttleworth & Cowie: 1997:83). Mahmoodzadeh gives a more detailed definition of interpreting: Interpreting consists of presenting in the target language, the exact meaning of what is uttered in the source language either simultaneously or consecutively, preserving the tone of the speaker (1992:231).
Whether novice or experienced, all interpreters find this profession demanding and challenging. Phelan says that "when an interpreter is working, he or she cannot afford to have a bad day. One bad interpreter can ruin a conference" (2001:4). In discussing the qualifications required for an interpreter, Phelan mentions that:
"The interpreter needs a good short-term memory to retain what he or she has just heard and a good long-term memory to put the information into context. Ability to concentrate is a factor as is the ability to analyze and process what is heard" (2001:4-5).
Mahmoodzadeh also emphasizes that a skillful interpreter is expected to "have a powerful memory." (1992:233). Daniel Gile (1992,1995) emphasizes the difficulties and efforts involved in interpreting tasks and strategies needed to overcome them, observing that many failures occur in the absence of any visible difficulty. He then proposes his Effort Models for interpreting. He says that "The Effort Models are designed to help them [interpreters] understand these difficulties [of interpreting] and select appropriate strategies and tactics. They are based on the concept of Processing Capacity and on the fact that some mental operations in interpreting require much Processing Capacity."(1992:191) According to Gile, Consecutive Interpreting consists of two phases: a listening and reformulation phrase and a reconstruction phase (1992:191, 1995b:179):
Phase One: I=L+M+N
I=Interpreting, L=listening and analyzing the source language speech, M=short-term memory required between the time information is heard and the time it is written down in the notes, and N=note-taking.
Phase Two: I= Rem+Read+P
In this Phase Two of Consecutive Interpreting, interpreters retrieve messages from their short-term memory and reconstruct the speech (Rem), read the notes (N), and produce the Target Language Speech (P). Gile's Effort Model for Simultaneous Interpreting is:
L=Listening and Analysis, which includes "all the mental operations between perception of a discourse by auditory mechanisms and the moment at which the interpreter either assigns, or decides not to assign, a meaning (or several potential meanings) to the segment which he has heard."
M=Short-term Memory, which includes "all the mental operations related to storage in memory of heard segments of discourse until either their restitution in the target language, their loss if they vanish from memory, or a decision by the interpreter not to interpret them."
P=Production, which includes "all the mental operations between the moment at which the interpreter decides to convey a datum or an idea and the moment at which he articulates (overtly produces) the form he has prepared to articulate" (1995a:93). Anderson, J.R., 1983. The Architecture of Cognition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Pp.46-57, 134,139, 212-226
Gile emphasizes that the memory effort is assumed to stem form the need to store the words of a proposition until the hearer receives the end of that proposition. The storage of information is claimed to be particularly demanding in SI, since both the volume of information and the pace of storage and retrieval are imposed by the speaker (1995a:97-98).
In both models, Gile emphasizes the significance of Short-term Memory. It is actually one of the specific skills which should be imparted to trainees in the first stage of training. Among all the skills and techniques which are required for a good interpreter, memory skill is the first one which should be introduced to trainee interpreters.
2.1.2.Psychological studies of human memory make a distinction between Short-Term Memory (STM) and Long-Term Memory (LTM). The idea of short-term memory simply means that you are retaining information for a short period of time without creating the neural mechanisms for later recall. Long-Term Memory occurs when you have created neural pathways for storing ideas and information which can then be recalled weeks, months, or even years later. To create these pathways, you must make a deliberate attempt to encode the information in the way you intend to recall it later. Long-term memory is a learning process. And it is essentially an important part of the interpreter's acquisition of knowledge, because information stored in LTM may last for minutes to weeks, months, or even an entire life. The duration of STM is very short. It is up to 30 seconds. Peterson (1959) found it to be 6 - 12 seconds, while Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968) and Hebb (1949) state it is 30 seconds. Memory in interpreting only lasts for a short time. Once the interpreting assignment is over, the interpreter moves on to another one, often with different context, subject and speakers. Therefore, the memory skills which need to be imparted to trainee interpreters are STM skills.
Input of information: It is generally held that information enters the STM as a result of applying attention to the stimulus, which is about a quarter of a second according to the findings of both Sperling(1960) and Crowden(1982). However, McKay's (1973, in Radford and Govier, 1991: 382) findings do not fully support this, asserting that unattended information may enter the STM.
Capacity: As mentioned in the previous section, the capacity of STM is limited and small. Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968) propose that it is seven items of information (give or take two). Miller (1956) says it is seven "chunks." Another possibility may be that the limiting factor is not the STM's storage capacity, but its processing capacity (Gross:1990:55).
Modality: To store information in STM, it must be encoded, and there is a variety of possibilities as to how this operates. There are three main possibilities in STM: (1) Acoustic (Phonemic) coding is rehearsing through sub-vocal sounds (Conrad, 1964 and Baddeley:1966). (2) Visual coding is, as implied, storing information as pictures rather than sounds. This applies especially to nonverbal items, particularly if they are difficult to describe using words. In very rare cases some people may have a "photographic memory," but for the vast majority, the visual code is much less effective than this (Posner and Keele: 1967). (3) Semantic coding is applying meaning to information, relating it to something abstract (Baddeley:1990, Goodhead:1999)
Information Loss: There are three main theories as to why we forget from our STM: (1) Displacement--existing information is replaced by newly received information when the storage capacity is full (Waugh and Norman:1965) (2) Decay--information decays over time (Baddeley, Thompson and Buchanan, 1975). (3) Interference--other information present in the storage at the same time distorts the original information (Keppel and Underwood:1962). . Atkinson, R.L., and Stiffrin, R.M., 1968. Human memory: A proposed system and its control processes, in K.W. Spence and J.T. Spence (eds.), The psychology of learning and motivation. Vol.2. London: Academic Press. Pp. 19, 65, 78-79
Retrieval: There are modes of retrieval of information from STM: (1) Serial search--items in STM are examined one at a time until the desired information is retrieved (Sternberg:1966). (2) Activation--dependence on activation of the particular item reaching a critical point (Monsell:1979, Goodhead:1999).
3.1.2.The purpose of memory (STM) training in interpreting is to achieve a better understanding of the source language, which will lead to adequate interpreting. As Lin Yuru et al. put it, "Memory in consecutive interpreting consists of nothing more than understanding the meaning, which is conveyed by the words" (Lin et al., 1999:9). Understanding is the first step in successful interpreting; therefore, memory training is to be provided in the early stage of interpreter training. Memory functions differently in consecutive and simultaneous interpreting, because the duration of memory is longer in CI than in SI. There are different methods of training STM for CI and SI respectively. Interpreting starts with the encoding of the information from the original speaker. According to Gile's Effort Model, interpreting is an STM-centered activity; the process of interpreting could be re-postulated into:
Encoding of information from the Source Language + Storing Information + Retrieval of Information + Decoding Information into the Target language.
In Consecutive Interpreting, there is probably up to 15 minutes (depending on the speaker's segments) for the interpreter to encode and then store the information. This is the first phase of Gile's Effort Model for CI. In the second phase of Gile's Model, the interpreter starts to retrieve information and decode it into the target language. In SI, encoding and decoding of information happen almost at the same time. The duration for storing the information is very limited. Therefore, in the first step of interpreting, encoding (understanding) information uttered in the SL is the key to memory training.
According to the previous description, there are three main possibilities of storing information in STM: (1) Acoustic Coding; (2) Visual Coding and (3) Semantic Coding. Visual coding may be used by interpreters in conference situations with multimedia. Notes in interpreting are to assist in such visual coding of information. But in most interpreting contexts, interpreters will depend on acoustic and semantic coding. Therefore, exercises should be designed for this purpose. The following methods are recommended:
Retelling in the Source Language: The instructor either reads or plays a recording of a text of about 200 words for the trainees to retell in the same language. The trainees should not be allowed to take any notes. In the first instance, trainees should be encouraged to retell the text in the same words of the original to the largest possible extent. The following tactics should be used by the trainees after a certain time of training on retelling: Categorization: Grouping items of the same properties; Generalization: Drawing general conclusions from particular examples or message from the provided text; Comparison: Noticing the differences and similarities between different things, facts and events; Description: Describing a scene, a shape, or size of an object, etc. Trainees are encouraged to describe, summarize, and abstract the original to a large extent in their own words in exercises (2) to (5). Shadowing Exercise: Which is defined as "a paced, auditory tracking task which involves the immediate vocalization of auditorily presented stimuli, i.e., word-for-word repetition in the same language, parrot-style, of a message presented through a headphone"(Lambert 1899:381). This kind of exercise is recommended for training of Simultaneous Interpreting, especially the splitting of attention skills and the short-term memory in SI. Atkinson, R.L., et al., 1993. Introduction to psychology(11th ed. (s:l): Ted Bucholz. Pp. 46-58
There is another tool which is effective in memory training: Mnemonic to Memory. Mnemonic is a device, such as a formula or rhyme, used as an aid in remembering. Mnemonics are methods for remembering information that is otherwise quite difficult to recall. A very simple example of a mnemonic is the '30 days hath September' rhyme. The basic principle of Mnemonics is to use as many of the best functions of the human brain as possible to encode information.
The human brain has evolved to encode and interpret complex stimuli--images, color, structure, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, spatial awareness, emotion, and language--using them to make sophisticated interpretations of the environment. Human memory is made up of all these features.
Typically, however, information presented to be remembered is from one source--normally words on a page. While reading words on a page reflects one of the most important aspects of human evolution, it is only one of the many skills and resources available to the human mind. Mnemonics seek to use all of these resources. By encoding language and numbers in sophisticated, striking images which flow into other strong images, we can accurately and reliably encode both information and the structure of information to be easily recalled later (Manktelow:2003).
It is also advisable that Exercises with Interference (e.g. noises) be provided in order to prevent information loss in the Short-Term Memory, since the environment and other information present in the storage may reduce the information encoded. Recording speeches with specially 'inserted' noises as a background is a recommended classroom practice, since this is a very effective method to enable the students to concentrate and thus strengthen their STM duration.
1. Training of professional interpreters has a three-part structure: the first stage is introduction to skills specific to interpreting, for example through memory training and note-taking exercises. This is followed by intensive classroom practice. The third stage involves work experience and observation where the main focus is on task achievement. Baddeley, A.D., 1966. "The influence of acoustic and semantic similarity on long term memory for word sequences", in Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 18, pp.302-309.
1.2.2.The aim of professional translation and interpretation is transposition of a message from a source language into a target language, with due attention to what one might call the ambiance of the message in order to create a similar ambiance in the target language. Depending on the content and form of the message, this ambiance may be minimal, as in much scientific and technical translation or purely informational interpretation. It may be as important as the message, as in literary translation or the interpretation of politically or psychologically sensitive speeches. Or it may even be more significant than the message itself, as in some poetry, in advertising, in many diplomatic communiquйs, and in most after-dinner speeches. Although every bilingual speaker who is able to express himself with some felicity can usually translate or interpret on the message level, it takes considerable training, or a special sensitivity coupled with years of experience, to become a professional translator or interpreter capable of capturing and communicating the nuances of two or more languages.
Ambiance can be created in various ways. It can be the result of a distinctive linguistic or literary style or form: colloquial, educated, biblical, commercial, or legal language; slang, dialect, or regionalisms; dialogue, stream-of-consciousness narrative, or oblique discourse; poetic prose, verse, or such characteristic literary styles as those of romanticism, realism, or even the New Yorker . It can be created through references to certain aspects of a particular cultural or social heritage, such as national holidays, historical or geographic landmarks, or national or local characteristics and beliefs. Ambiance can also involve ethnic or cultural peculiarities and idiosyncrasies--special marriage or burial customs or rites, various superstitions and taboos. Finally, it can utilize the special characteristics of one language that have no (or only imprecise) equivalents in another.
Those who are not translators may not give much thought to the problem of the most appropriate treatment in English of the complex and elaborate sentences of German or Russian, or the flowery styles of Russian or Chinese. Most of us, however, are aware of a number of simpler translation problems: “faux amis,” i.e., words which sound similar in two languages but mean different things; regionalisms, where the same word or phrase has different connotations or even denotations and where the region itself, be it Cockney London or the Deep South, may have unique symbolic values; mixed stylistic levels and metaphors; almost untranslatable terms such as Gemьtlichkeit or poshlost ; the need to find English equivalents for the familiar form of address still used by many languages, or for titles, first names, and surnames used in special contexts (e.g., Lord Peter, Sir John; vous ma mиre; die Anna ); the difficulty of finding the appropriate linguistic and social form for expressing or translating wishes, commands, admiration, gratitude, disagreement; translating into the appropriate ambiance references to the Bible, the Koran, the Little Red Book, or Comrade Lenin; quoting Shakespeare to Germans, Goethe and Schiller to Americans. The list is endless.
Many of these problems face the language student and teacher long before he confronts them as a translator or interpreter. In general, language students acquire some of this cultural and social ambiance gradually through their readings, from their teachers' explanations, habits, and customs, or, if the student is lucky, during a lengthy stay in a foreign country with exposure to that country's cultural and social values. Nonetheless, it takes a very observant, determined, sensitive, and thoughtful student to absorb enough of the ambiance to become a “near-native.”
If the near-native also has a profound awareness of his primary culture, he can be considered bilingual. (Actually, true bilingualism is rare. Unless both languages and cultures are constantly accessible and in equal measure part of the working and living environment, one of them soon moves into a secondary position.) Finally, in addition to engaging in a comprehensive “contrastive analysis” of his two languages (i.e., a comparison which is attuned to the myriad factors of the respective ambiances) and developing methods for solving at least the more obvious and important problems of linguistic, cultural, or social divergence, the bilingual speaker must attain an educational level sufficiently high for an awareness of aesthetic, philosophical, social, and political factors and innuendos and their possible equivalents in the other language area. Only then will he have the potential for becoming a good translator or interpreter. Such a preparation may well require a lifetime--and in the past “real” translators and interpreters indeed seemed born rather than bred. In fact, however, a far greater number of working translators and interpreters were merely people with some knowledge of a foreign language and an ability to convey the gist of a message, sometimes together with the gist of their own preferences and prejudices. The same was, and often is, true of language teachers. Though we have moved through various methodological revolutions, from Berlitz and total immersion to the aural-oral approach, from the linguist-plus-informant team to the “classroom abroad,” highly motivated students and teachers often fight a losing battle to retain and expand their laboriously and expensively acquired language skills. We have all heard the college student complain that “after a year of studying it I now know less French than when I came back from France,” or “I just can't discuss Don Quixote meaningfully in Spanish”; or the teacher's confession that “I practically rewrite some of my students' master's theses that are written in German,” or the new Ph.D. who admits that he cannot lecture in Russian.
After World War II, several European universities established extensive formal programs for the training of professional translators and interpreters and developed methods for refining the techniques of what I have called contrastive analysis. More recently, similar programs were established at a few American universities, most notably at Georgetown and the Monterey Institute of Foreign Studies. While serving as director of the program at Monterey, I realized that, unlike its European counterparts which are able to draw on a multilingually oriented environment, and perhaps even unlike the Georgetown program which undoubtedly benefits from Washington's sizable international population, the Institute's program had to provide considerable training in advanced language skills as well as in translation and interpretation techniques. Moreover, when seeking teachers qualified both to teach and practice translation or interpretation, I soon discovered that most “bilingual” teachers had either lost or never found that sensitivity to conceptual shadings and equivalences which is so important for a good translator or interpreter (and equally for a good language speaker or teacher). I therefore consider it essential that academic institutions of higher learning provide advanced language training in addition to courses in literature and culture, and that such language training be required throughout the language student's academic residency. This may seem an inauspicious moment for pleading the case of expanded language programs. But as teachers turn in increasing numbers to internationally oriented programs of study such as international studies, comparative politics and institutions, and comparative economics and management, and as the value of foreign language mastery within such training becomes more and more obvious, there is an increasing need for language programs oriented toward bilingualism. Baddeley, AD., 1986. Working memory. Oxford: Oxford University Press pp.l7-18, 332
Students (and even teachers) from other programs and schools have occasionally requested permission to participate in the Institute's translation and interpretation courses--not in order to become professional translators or interpreters but to maintain or expand their language skills. This fact confirms my belief that some of the techniques we use to enhance the language facility of our translation and interpretation students could be applied successfully to general language programs at other institutions of higher learning. I am convinced that such language training can be at least as valuable as a stay abroad, with the added advantage that the second cultural environment does not tend to displace the first. Both settings, so necessary for proper contrastive analysis, are thus available simultaneously.
Chapter2 Listening techniques in translation
The following three techniques used in the training of translators and interpreters at the Monterey Institute seem especially suitable for advanced language study:
1. Conceptualization . One of the basic premises for successful translation and interpretation is recognition of the principle that the working unit is not a word or word group but the concept, the idea. In contrast to shorthand, which aims at a verbatim reproduction of a text, the various note-taking systems used for consecutive interpretation provide, as it were, “basic training” in conceptualization. They are compression systems, used to record only the essential concepts of a speech and its organizational or linkage pattern. As these concepts are orally translated into the other language, they are again expanded into complete sentences and given the appropriate stylistic and verbal framework. By requiring that the student write down not complete sentences or word groups, but only minimal significant concepts and linkages--and there is no time to do more--such note-taking encourages the conceptualization without which effective consecutive interpretation cannot occur.
There is, of course, no need for every language student to learn interpretative note-taking, though I consider it an extremely beneficial skill. It improves essay planning and writing skills, leads to better note-taking at lectures, increases awareness of parallel or divergent ways of expressing ideas in two languages and thus develops sensitivity toward style, and, most important, it encourages analytical and systematic thinking.
Once the principle of conceptualization is understood, there are many ways to employ and practice it: prйcis-writing; oral and written text summaries; oral enumerations of the salient points of a speech, an essay or a discussion; the selection of appropriate titles and headings for articles and news items; and brief or extensive recapitulation in the same language or another of speeches, lectures, articles, or stories read or heard. Much of the work should be done orally, to increase the student's listening comprehension while at the same time providing an incentive for a critical reception of the presented text. In addition, teachers trained in the use of an interpretative note-taking system may find it rewarding to introduce such a course in their schools for the benefit of students and colleagues.
2. Stylistic transposition . Stylistic transposition is usually practiced in preparation for written translation of stylistically sensitive texts. In an oral adaptation, it is also used to prepare students for simultaneous interpretation. I believe it can also provide a valuable technique for advanced language training.
There are many ways to practice stylistic transposition, and I will suggest only a few. Students can write “eyewitness accounts” of an event as seen by a child, an uneducated person, a newspaper reporter, a politician, a poet, a philosopher. They can rewrite a stylistically sophisticated essay in simplified form, or a realistic account poetically. They can be asked to single out and analyze those components of an essay that are responsible for its stylistic coloring. They can study, evaluate, and imitate styles of different writers, or compare different approaches applied to one theme or subject. Finally, they can translate stylistically significant texts and compare their translations with those of their classmates or with published translations.
3. Sight translation . Sight translation is frequently considered an unpardonable sin, an unmentionable outrage against the canons of psychologically sound language teaching methodology. If practiced without supervision, sight translation usually results in clumsy, literal translation with atrocious syntax and abominable style, full of gaps and approximations. If undertaken with the teacher's assistance, it tends to become a tedious, time-consuming process, a laborious and frustrating search for the right word or word order, in the course of which all one's carefully hidden linguistic sins--long forgotten grammatical and syntactical rules or never properly understood words--come to the fore. Despite these handicaps, which are real enough, I have found sight translation into a foreign language to be the most effective vocabulary builder, and sight translation into English the best possible speedy review of grammatical principles and problems. Moreover, if undertaken systematically, sight translation gradually produces a fluency and sophistication of expression in the foreign as well as the native language that is often superior to that of the average resident of a foreign country, or even a native speaker in his own country. Gile, D, 1992, Basic Theoretical Components in Interpreter and Translator Training, in Dollerup, C and Loddegaard, A (eds), pp.185-194
The reasons for this are simple. If a language is used primarily for self-expression, a very limited vocabulary, if handled skillfully, may be adequate and thus remain constant. Sight translation, on the other hand, forces the student to work with someone else's vocabulary and terminology, while mustering all of his linguistic and intellectual resources in order to find suitable or possible equivalents. As a result, terms encountered in one language, and improvised in the other only yesterday, may crop up in the second language today and be recognized and assimilated into active vocabulary. Observation and memory improve as the student struggles to convey special expressions in the other language, and he is forced to appreciate their uniqueness and felicity. Finally, if texts on different topics provide the “raw material” for sight translation, vocabulary begins to extend beyond the terminology of the individual's own specialization or interests and brings him closer to a total mastery of the language.
I have found the following method of practicing sight translation most effective, if used in a combination of self-study and supervised performance:
· Sight translate aloud for about twenty minutes a day, preferably seven days a week. The time should be subdivided into ten-minute practice sessions to and from the target language.
· Use any current newspapers or magazines, preferably different materials each day or week. At first, sight translate only one or two paragraphs of various articles, making sure that they range over a considerable spectrum of topics--politics, economics, brief news items, society gossip, sports, theater or film, book reviews.
· Sight translate as evenly as possible, to create the illusion of a read text. Skip, improvise, or simplify as needed, but try to convey the message accurately and in complete sentences.
· Do not pause to look up words or phrases, but underline special troublemakers or unknown terms (while guessing at them) in order to check them out and learn them later.
· Sit down and learn such terms once you have collected twenty or thirty, and review them on days when there are no new lists to memorize.
· Listen to your oral presentation while sight translating, and force yourself to use the foreign language as correctly and as literately as you can, and your native language as elegantly and appropriately as possible.
· Avoid, if at all possible, terms or constructions in the foreign language that an educated native speaker would not be likely to use. (You can try such terms in your written translations or compositions where they can be corrected or discussed, and where they can contribute to the development of a style of your own. Here your aim is meaningful and correct communication presented smoothly and clearly.)
· Do not be discouraged if you get hopelessly stuck and have to summarize a paragraph in a short, simplistic, and vague sentence, or not at all. Summarize as best as you can, then skip to another article or essay. Keppelk, G., and Underwood, B., 1962. "Proactive Inhibition in Short-term Retention of Single Items", in Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behaviour, pp. 153-161.
Long before the emergence of most academic translation and interpretation programs, sight translation was practiced systematically in the language school in Vienna where I studied English and French. My regular practice of it, coupled with consistent vocabulary memorization, resulted in my arrival in the United States with so extensive an active English vocabulary that it proved embarrassing, and I quickly reduced it to a less conspicuous level. But what better goal could there be for language teachers than that of preparing our students to face similar embarrassments in a country whose language they have learned here at home? H.L. MENCKEN used to tell the story of a state legislator who clinched his argument against a proposed allocation of funds for foreign language instruction by declaring proudly, “If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it's good enough for me.” Funny perhaps, but it is hard to keep smiling when similar expressions of smug obscurantism continue to crop up with embarrassing frequency and in the most surprising places. The deputy superintendent for instruction in the Washington, D.C. system, James T. Guines, was quoted in the Washington Post (4 September 1977) as saying that a cut in the school budget meant that such luxuries as foreign language classes in elementary schools would be the first to go. After all, he explained, “Even if you go abroad now, you don't need a language. The dollar speaks louder than anything.” Lambert, S & Moser-Mercer,B, 1994, Bridging the Gap: Empirical Research on Simultaneous Interpreting, Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins pp.511-512
A brief trip to Europe might assist Mr. Guines in acquiring a better appreciation of the value of foreign languages--and of the dollar. But before we become too self-righteous, we should remember that there is another side to this question. We may agree that foreign languages have intrinsic value, but that value will remain untapped unless and until it is transmitted correctly. Another Mencken anecdote may clarify the point. He recalled studying French for two years in high school and looking forward to his first visit to France; much to his dismay, he discovered that no one in Paris understood “high school French.”
Charity begins at home. We must put our own house in order. Foreign language instruction needs improvement at all levels, but the crux of our problem lies in the elementary and secondary schools. This is where languages should be taught, not in the colleges. I am convinced that the long-range solution to the plight of foreign languages in this country will come with improvement of instruction at the high school level and with coordination of an effective transition from high school to college. However, in the meantime we must face the situation as it is and do the best we can.
Our present prospects are, unfortunately, not very happy. There is no need to rehearse the litany of complaints, but it is worth reiterating that the plight of foreign languages reflects a larger problem that threatens the educational system as a whole. I am speaking of the continued decline in verbal and mathematical skills among young people, demonstrated by the drop in SAT scores over the past few years. To no one's surprise, a special commission charged with studying the matter attributed the lower scores to several factors, including too much television. My own feeling is that two important underlying causes are, or have been, a creeping anti-intellectualism in the public at large and a loss of confidence among teachers.
As a result of this fatal combination, many students receive high school diplomas that are not worth the paper they are written on. Large numbers of so-called graduates are functional illiterates, incapable of even balancing a checkbook. They can hardly read and write their own language, so what hope do they have of learning another? The gradual abandonment of the emphasis on the three R's has been encouraged by the “quick fix” mentality and the introduction of “innovative” ideas, whose chief purpose appears to be to persuade children that learning requires little or no effort. No one is suggesting that we return to the bad old days, but surely the pendulum has swung too far from Grad grind to the Good Humor Man.
The Good Humor Man approach is intellectually dishonest (children are not fooled, by the way), and it does the children a terrible disservice, as many of them come to realize later in life. Many boys and girls accept tough discipline in sports, and anyone who can learn “plays” in basketball can learn “plays” in English or mathematics. I do not believe that young people who discipline their bodies cannot also discipline their minds. But of course boys and girls have a right to an education; they do not have any right to play for their school in basketball or tennis, so they try harder.
Unfortunately, in too many schools sports dominate all other activities. We are drifting away from the Greek ideal, which like so much in the Classical heritage comes down to us in a Latin tag: “Mens sana in corpore sano.” We need to give high school teachers something of the authority enjoyed by the football coach. It might help, too, if we could focus more attention on educators rather than “educationists” or organizers of teaching, and also get school boards and PTA's off the teachers' backs. Perhaps a little “teacher power” would lead to more respect for teachers--and for the learning process--on the part of the students.
I may appear to have drifted from the topic of foreign language instruction, but I am trying to make the point that we share a community of interests with our colleagues in English and mathematics, and indeed with all teachers at the secondary school level. Foreign languages are the most fragile and vulnerable part of the humanities curriculum. All of us man the front line in a constant battle against obscurantism and the Madison Avenue mentality, but high school teachers are in the trenches. Foreign language instruction is bound to suffer if verbal and mathematical skills decline and if the Good Humor Man approach continues to flourish. Anyone involved in FL teaching also has a stake in the maintenance of high standards of oral and written skills in the English language, because the level of those skills determines the quality of the students we see in our own classes. A foreign language can, of course, be taught well or badly, like any other subject, but learning must involve effort, memorization, precision, and a good knowledge of how one's own language works. That is why we should all welcome the “back to basics” movement that appears to be gaining ground in various parts of the country. Both students and parents are beginning to realize that all the fancy talk about innovation and creative freedom does not help much if a graduate cannot read and write beyond the eighth-grade level and therefore cannot get a job. Frustrated by this discovery, some parents have threatened to sue high schools for awarding diplomas under false pretenses--which is precisely what some schools have done.
Perhaps those of us in Russian studies are more aware of the shared community of interests and of the need for students to have a solid grounding in basic verbal skills. We certainly have more to gain, first, because Russian is such a late arrival on the American educational scene, and second, because Russian requires a good understanding of grammar and syntax (not that one can do without this understanding in learning other languages).
The University of Virginia Slavic Department draws heavily upon applied linguistics in teaching Russian. The discipline of modern linguistics was largely created by Slavists and hence figures as a subject of central importance in most Slavic departments. At the same time, this approach recognizes the obvious fact that Russian is a highly inflected language having, for example, six cases. A student who cannot distinguish between subject and predicate or accusative and dative is likely to find the going rough. On the other hand, Russian grammar is logical and predictable; students willing to make a reasonable effort usually do very well.
Russian classes are anything but dull. Our beginning text is A Russian Course by Alexander Lipson (Slavica Publishers). It is a text with excellent layout, tapes, and an exceptionally good workbook manual. The book offers an ideal combination of liveliness and linguistic sophistication. The first three chapters present a microcosm of the Russian language in practice by use of the question-and-answer technique and frequent repetition. Thereafter the grammar is introduced in stages because the student now has an understanding of how the language works in practice. The instructor speaks Russian from the outset, eliciting correct answers by writing symbols or matchstick drawings on the blackboard; he needs to be on his toes and to be something of a ham in order to create the proper atmosphere of give and take in the repetition of “rituals.”
3.2.2.Lipson's text abandons the old-fashioned type of grammar sentence and opts for nonsense phrases which force the student to focus as much on the linguistic nature of the words as on their meaning. Much fun is had at the expense of Socialist Realism and Soviet propaganda claims of breaking cement-mixing records, but it is verbal play rather than social criticism. Students learn a great deal about the fascinating inhabitants of the twin cities of West Blinsk and East Blinsk, the latter being renamed Gubkingrad in honor of Gubkin, the renowned hero of Socialist Labor. There is also the continuing saga of Superman ( Sverxcelovek ) and Superboy ( Sverxmal'cik ).
The point of all this silliness is that students enjoy the pleasures of contrastive grammar, of punning with sounds that exist only in English or only in Russian. Not only do they acquire a useful set of phrases, but they learn to generate their own “rituals.” They begin to understand that language, any language, is a system tending toward, but never quite reaching, perfect balance in its various components and prosodic features. They enjoy being “behind the scenes,” getting an insight into the ways in which the linguist formulates rules for what takes place in a language. They enjoy learning about linguistic universals, about the relationship between front and back vowels and hard and soft consonants. They perceive a parallel between consonantal and pronunciation changes in Russian ( krast'--kradu ) and in English (wit--wisdom; Christ-- Christian).
I have the impression that many FL instructors lack linguistic sophistication and do not know as much about the theory of language as they could or should in order to employ an up-to-date methodology. It might well be that we need a program of fellowships to enable foreign language instructors at all levels to “retool” and acquire some understanding of linguistics, semiotics, and communication theory.
Our students are not abandoned at the end of the first or second year, although Virginia does have a two-year FL requirement. A determined effort is made to coordinate all four levels of the Russian language program so that students who wish to may continue with Russian in a coherent manner; quite a large proportion do decide to go on with the language. As a continuing text we use Genevra Gerhart's The Russian's World: Life and Language (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich). The aim of the book is to tell the American student “what every Russian knows,” and it succeeds admirably. Gerhart gives the connotative as well as the denotative value of Russian words, thus putting cultural flesh on the linguistic bones, breathing life into the frame.
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